Review Blog

Oct 23 2018

The house with a clock in its walls by John Bellairs

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Piccadilly, 2018. ISBN 9781848127715
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy. Film tie-in. USA. Orphans. When Lewis Barnavelt is orphaned and sent to live with Uncle Johnathan, a man he has never met, his aunts are dismayed. But Lewis is thrilled: his uncle is endlessly interesting, a man of many talents, a magician to boot, and later, Lewis finds out that he is a wizard. And there is a mystery in his amazing house - apart from the unusual Mrs Zimmerman from next door, who cooks for them, the walls seem to tick.
This wholly engrossing story was first published in 1973 by United States' author, John Bellairs, and has been released as a film, starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett.
The ticking walls draw Uncle Johnathan from his sleep and his prowling the walls each night wakens Lewis. Eventually they both meet during their nightly prowlings and Johnathan is forced to tell Lewis some of the story. But Lewis is having trouble fitting in at school. He hates sport and wears glasses. One boy seemed to take an interest and when this wains, Lewis betrays some of Johnathan's secrets to entice him back to being his friend. At the graveyard one Halloween, Lewis practises some of the wizardry he has been shown and releases the old owner of the house from his grave. The Izards used to live in Johnathan's house and their clock is ticking along nicely, ticking off the end of the world.
Lewis must do something to repair what he has done, and Mrs Zimmerman is there to help. This lively and engrossing book is most unusual, not your usual fantasy fare, but one that intrigues with the idea of a clock ticking within the walls of the house, spelling out impending doom.
Lewis is an amiable character with all the flaws of youth, trying desperately to find a friend in a new school, willing to do anything to keep him, despite the bullying and name calling. I will be interested to see how far the film strays from the book.
Fran Knight

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